Sue Meggers has gardened for many reasons over the course of her life. When she was young, she gardened because her grandparents did. When she was a newlywed, gardening was a necessity. Now, as a seventh and eighth grade teacher at Interstate 35 Secondary in Madison County, Iowa, Sue is gardening to show her students that all living things are interdependent and connected. Sue collaborated with fellow teacher Hannah Ludwig to complete the project. Here they share their experience with starting a school garden that doubles as beautiful landscaping.
Tell us about your background with soil science, nutrients, and gardening.
As an Iowan farm girl, the soil is what made me! As a child I helped my grandparents garden and as newlyweds we gardened as necessity. I canned thousands of jars of fruits and vegetables to supplement our food budget. I garden today out of habit and love to share the produce and my talents with others…anyone!
Why did you decide to start a school garden?
Our school garden grew out of a desire to create a visual statement from which kids could enhance their perspective of the natural world and the interdependence of organisms. The art teacher wrote a grant to build first a visual display and now an edible visual display incorporating food plants with ornamentals.
What were the first steps in making the garden a reality?
We began with administration approval, a grant, and a call for volunteers and donations. The kids and community really stepped up to support the effort.
What did you grow and how did you choose that plant?
We began with plants to create a colorful, visually intriguing space and evolved into a space incorporating edible plants. The garden is anchored in attractive ornamentals and enhanced by equally appealing edible plants intermixed.
How did you expand the learning opportunities in and outside of the garden?
High school students built benches for students to use while drawing, observing, and reading in the garden. We use the garden for to study both plants and insects…particularly the interdependence of plants and pollinators.
What was your experience working with other teachers, students, and parents?
Students marvel at the diversity and parents love the engaging setting. Teachers find the garden a wonderful resource and struggle to find time to get it all in before it freezes in the fall!
How did you introduce the topic of soil health and nutrients to your students?
We observe plant characteristic and note which ones are growing well and which ones struggle. We look at plant color and death loss and productivity of vegetables. We identify why heights are different and trace back unknown reasons to soil nutrients and/or water availability.
What were the biggest difficulties with your school garden?
How did you see the students change as they spent time in the garden? How did this influence you?
They are more respectful and empowered to care for the space. This encourages me to increase outdoor time.
What was the greatest moment for you in the garden?
When the student says, “So these plants make us better people.”
What would you advise to anyone hoping to start a garden or become involved with a garden at their local school?
Get started and invite others to join you. Start small and seek our local experts! Involve whole families!
If you had one, what would your gardening motto be?
Life is precious….each life depends on another!
Keep an eye out on Friday for another spotlight post featuring Ms. Megger’s favorite Foundation resource!
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